The Hatch-Palucks, Week 11: A Tale of 10 Kinds of Christmas Cookies
Filed under: Healthy Families Challenge
You know what's a great weight-loss program?
The flu, that's what.
With the exception of Emmie, our entire family fell victim to some kind of plague-like virus that limited our activities to sitting on the couch, moaning and drinking cup after cup of hot tea -- or, in Henry's case, sippy cups of orange juice -- for the better part of two weeks.
But the good news is that we're getting better, one by one (I even managed to drop those three pounds I gained last month), and just in time to enter the hectic holiday season littered with landmines designed to derail our progress in the Healthy Families Challenge.
I'm guilty of planting one of those mines myself, in the form of my obsession with holiday baking. When we moved to Urbana, Il., in 2006, one of the things I mourned was my mother's Christmas cookies. Every December, since I was a wee lass, my mother has baked hundreds of cookies -- and I consumed a hefty portion of them.
She makes at least seven or eight varieties, and when I realized I'd go most of the month without eating one single chocolate crinkle, I started learning how to make them myself -- not only to satisfy my craving, but also to carry on the tradition with my own kids.
I talked about the Christmas cookies with our nutrition team at the University of Illinois Family Resiliency Center, when Channing and I went in for our initial meeting (since the university is out on break, we won't see them again until the new year). When I brought up my concerns, Dr. Barbara Fiese, director of the Family Resiliency Center, assured me that we didn't have to give up our beloved baked goods.
Food, she told us, is so much more than just fuel for our bodies. Food is comfort, memory and tradition, all rolled up into one. While we shouldn't indulge in treats 24/7, we also don't need to eliminate all of the buttery goodness from our celebrations in order to stay on the path to health and fitness.
For me, holiday baking is about the warm memories I have of helping my mom decorate sugar cookies with bright green frosting, and how close I felt to her, my sister and my brother on those winter evenings in the kitchen. Channing had similar experiences when he was a boy, and holiday baking means a lot to both of us.
I want Emmie and Henry to have the same loving feelings when they grow up -- and they will, because I'm following the advice that Dr. Sharon Donovan, professor of food science and human nutrition at the University of Illinois, gave me when I voiced my concerns about making them too many treats.
"It's well-documented that variety drives consumption," she said. "That's why buffets do so well. So this year, (if you're planning to make) 10 different cookies, maybe pick eight instead."
Donovan also suggested substituting apple sauce for the butter or shortening in some of my recipes, because no one would ever know the difference. It's a 1:1 ratio, so replace one cup of butter with one cup of applesauce.
That's exactly what I did, pushing through the head cold from hell to bake my favorites: The chocolate crinkle. These are a pain to make, so they're definitely a once-a-year treat. They also happen to be Emmie's and Henry's favorites.
I've also made chocolate-mint peekaboo bars, black-eyed Susans and candied almonds, because those are the goodies that signal the advent of Christmas in the Hatch-Paluck household.
We're giving up sugar cookies, gingerbread, mini cherry cheesecakes, Russian tea cakes and chocolate-covered pretzels, but so far, no one has missed them. In some ways, my cookie cut-backs remind me of the real spirit of the season.
It's quality, not quantity, that counts.
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